Prisons: Only one doctor for every 10,000 inmates

Rafsan Jani
Published : 09:30, Sep 15, 2019 | Updated : 11:05, Sep 15, 2019

A general view of Dhaka Central Jail, Keraniganj. PHOTO/ prisons across the country are in a grave crisis of physicians with only one doctor for every 10,000 inmates.
There are currently 88,149 inmates in the 68 prisons across the country; more than double the capacity with only nine doctors.
According to the prisons department, the Keraniganj Central Jail has two doctors, and one doctor each for the prisons in Kashempur, Narayanganj, Chattogram, Sylhet, Barishal, Gazipur and Cumilla.
The Department of Prisons has been writing to the home and health ministries regarding the crisis but to no avail.
People familiar with the matter said that formulation of a medical unit for police, prisons and Ansar ordered by Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina might resolve the crisis. However, it will take more than two years given that the project is still in its preliminary state.
Given the circumstances, prisons and health ministry officials are of the view that treatment of the inmates has to continue as it is with no immediate solution on the horizon.
Prisons department Inspector General (IG prisons) AKM Mustafa Kamal Pasha said that the inmates are still citizens and are entitled to receiving medical care.
“The inmates have the right to medical care as any other citizen. I’m responsible for them and have raised the issue at several meetings and roundtables,” he told Bangla Tribune.
“We are constantly informing those concerned of the crisis and are hopeful of a solution,” he added.
Health Services Additional Secretary Md Habibur Rahman Khan said that they themselves are in a crisis of physicians and it’s not currently possible to meet the demands of others.
Dhaka Central Jail Assistant Surgeon Dr Khurshid Alam said that there are only two doctors in the five available posts. Similarly, there is one person in the diploma post and one in the pharmacist post.
“We regularly have to go through a hard time to operate with this manpower,” he said.
A prisons department official of the additional IGP level wishing to remain anonymous said that they asked for 141 doctors even last month.
“We have been sending letters from the very beginning and did so in August but we didn’t receive a reply,” he said.
He added that they write to the home ministry and the letter is then forwarded to the health ministry where it gets stuck.
Due to the medical care crisis, many VIP prisoners are able to enjoy the privilege of remaining out of prison citing medical reasons, something they otherwise wouldn’t have been able to do otherwise, he said.
The official is of the view that the prison doctors do enjoy an increased level of independence when it comes to working as their decisions are hardly challenged.
However, people familiar with the matter disagree saying that the post of a prison doctor is a ‘block post’ with no opportunities of promotion, higher education and other facilities, thus encouraging physicians to take up the job.
Prisons IG Pasha said that when he took charge, doctors were appointed but they didn’t report to duty.
He said that incentives and facilities such as promotion, rank-badge and opportunity for higher education will encourage physicians to join.
Meanwhile, the public security division of the home ministry held a meeting on Apr 10 for the implementation of the formulation of the medical unit ordered by the PM.
The unit will be responsible for appointing doctors, nurses and paramedics for the hospitals run by police, Ansar, BGB and prisons.
A 14-member committee headed by Additional Public Security Secretary Md Nurul Islam was formed.
Islam said that they are almost done collecting information and will be able to provide the government with a plan by the end of this month although they were supposed to submit the report by Sept 15.
Prisons department Additional IGP Abrar Hossain said that formation of the unit will resolve the crisis and regular meetings were underway to implement the project.